After a 13-10 start to the 2017 season, the 67-95 Chicago White Sox fell off the deep end and proceeded to lose either 16 or 18 games each month until September, when they finally managed their only other winning month of the season.
I know we think our teams will do it every year, but no MLB team is ever going to win 162 games in a season. I know, I’m the bearer of bad news. Winning 100 games is a measure for tremendous success in the MLB season, but even that is a a feat in and of itself. Probably the best measure for a successful season is tracking series wins. However, by this count, the White Sox were nowhere near where they wanted to be with 18 series wins and five splits out of a possible 51. That’s called not achieving Spring Training goals, to say the least.
The White Sox weren’t a good offensive team. Aggressive at the plate, the South Siders drew the third fewest walks in MLB with 401. I’m normally fine with an aggressive approach at the plate, but there’s a fine line between an overly aggressive approach and staying disciplined. The White Sox threw discipline out the window and swung at just about everything. As a result, their itch to swing the bat put them fifth in the American League for strikeouts. A high strikeout rate kills any chance of advancing runners or driving in runs with productive outs. They were 14th in the AL in RBIs from sacrifice flies.
Given the offensive struggles, things were even worse in the field. Chicago was 13th in the AL in team ERA at 4.78 and 14th in fielding percentage at .981 with 114 errors committed. The Oakland A’s were the only team to commit more errors than the White Sox during 2017. The big difference between the success of the two teams is that the White Sox didn’t have near the offensive ability of the A’s to make up for the defensive deficiencies.
If we’ve learned anything over the first two weeks of the offseason, it’s that pitching matters. The White Sox are in desperate need of pitching, especially starting pitching. No White Sox pitcher logged a winning season. A solid target for Chicago is free agent pitcher Marco Estrada, who pitched to a 10-9 record and 4.98 ERA in 33 starts with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. Estrada is a solid start to changing the culture of that staff, but this group could be so far gone that it’ll take years to get things right again.
Offensively, the White Sox need to learn to be patient. Outfielders Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia along with first baseman Jose Abreu were bright spots offensively and could provide a spark for this young team in 2018.
The White Sox have finished with a winning record just four times since they won the World Series in 2005, and unless there are some swift changes to the pitching staff, there will be several more years of losing baseball on the South Side of Chicago.
Photo by Brigham Berthold